"Omega-3 and omega-6 essential fatty acids are critical for maintaining a healthy stratum corneum [the five outer layers of the skin], reducing inflammation, and adding radiance. An easy way to get these nutrients is through fish-oil supplements that provide 400 to 600 milligrams of EPA and 300 to 400 milligrams of DHA. Make sure the label says the supplements are molecularly distilled to remove mercury and other contaminants."
"Dark circles and puffiness are often caused by allergies and inflammation. The tannins in green tea can quickly reduce the swelling. Just place two tea bags in cold water, then let them sit on your eyes for about 10 minutes. Or treat allergy-induced redness around your eyes by taking supplements of freeze-dried nettles [an herbal plant shown to reduce allergic symptoms] with your daily vitamins."
Attack Acne Spot-On
"My favorite acne treatment is neem [Azadirachta indica], a topical anti-inflammatory and antibacterial ointment that calms, soothes, and treats acne without irritation. Apply neem every night wherever you have pimples." Try NeemAura Naturals Neem Seed Oil ($11, vitaminshoppe.com).
The Ethnic Skin Savant: Fran Cook-Bolden, M.D.
Director of Skin Specialty Dermatology and the Ethnic Skin Specialty Group in New York City
Cook-Bolden has spent years digging into the causes of ethnic skin disorders and masterminding ways to cure them. As a lead clinical investigator, she researched and developed therapies for post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation (dark spots) and acne scarring. Her book, Beautiful Skin of Color: A Comprehensive Guide to Asian, Olive, and Dark Skin, is considered the ethnic skin-care bible.
Don't Be a Trauma Queen
"Dark spots are a huge issue for ethnic skin, and acne spot treatments are the primary culprit. Overdrying specific areas--especially those that are already inflamed from a breakout--irritates the skin, creating a post-inflammatory response that activates pigment cells. For an effective but gentle allover acne treatment, try adding a dab of benzoyl peroxide to your moisturizer right before blending it onto your skin. And choose a lotion that contains essential fatty acids such as alphalinolenic acid or linoleic acid and niacinamide, which have been shown to improve acne."
Be Strategic About Sunblock
"Although darker skin may not sunburn as easily as fair skin, it's still at risk for sun damage and skin cancer. Broad-spectrum sunblock [which blocks both UVA and UVB rays] is a must. New advanced formulations with Mexoryl or Helioplex are micronized, meaning their tiny particles of zinc don't leave behind a thick white film, which is especially important for those with darker skin. I love Neutrogena Ultimate Sport Sunblock Spray [$11, at drugstores], which goes on sheer. Just remember to reapply frequently."
Load Up on Serums
"Serums are more concentrated than creams, and they are made up of smaller molecules, so the main active ingredients are delivered deeper into the skin. You get fast results, and you use only a tiny dab at a time, which saves you money.
"Look for a serum with antioxidants such as vitamin C and green tea [which prevent and fade pigmentation] and collagen builders like pentapeptides, which create a firm, youthful appearance. One of my favorites is Olay Regenerist Micro-Sculpting Serum [$25, at drugstores]--it delivers antioxidants, peptides, and sheer moisture."
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